Should REALTORS® Actually Know the Areas They Sell?

Real Estate Agent with Dockside Realty VA 0225142975

One of the tenets of being a professional REALTOR® is knowing your market.

How can someone possibly help their client buy a property in an area that is unknown to them 75-100 miles away in a very different environment?

I often ask myself this question when I receive calls from agents some distance away asking for information on property here at Lake Anna.  They have never been here and yet plan to work with clients interested in buying at the lake. 

One day I received a request from an assistant to a "high producing" Northern Virginia agent.  I was asked Lake Anna - Photo by Kate Elimto do a CMA for Lake Anna.  Lake Anna is 17 miles long with over 250 miles of shoreline and pproximately 120 subdivisions.  We sell waterfront homes, water view homes, access homes, waterfront lots, water view lots, and water access lots with or without assigned boat slips.

Would you like to do such a Comparative Market Analysis?  Would it tell you very much?  Would you be able to help your clients with this information?

I suggested to the assistant that I would be very happy to accept a referral.  That seemed like the logical step to me.  The assistant said the agent preferred to work with her own client.

Who's best interest was paramount on that agent's mind?

When I first became an agent I worked in Northern Virginia.  I had been living there for several years and there was still quite a learning curve getting to know the area.  It is huge.  My office was located in what is known as inside the beltway, fairly close to D.C.  It was the area where many people chose to start their search for a home.  At that time most of the jobs where in D.C. or close in.  Little by little we would venture further out when they realized they were able to buy much more home for the money.

After moving to Lake Anna I experienced another learning curve.  This time I had to learn about the lake.  Lake Anna has it's own story.  Then I had to learn about surveys, septic systems (alternative and conventional), about wells (drilled and bored), the building permit process, and other things that were more unique to Lake Anna.  Just getting to know where the nearest towns and shopping areas were as well as medical resources and schools took some time.

There definitely is a case to be made for referrals and they do not necessarily have to be just across state lines or outside a MLS.

Do you provide the best service for your clients even when that may mean not working with them? 

Please think about that the next time someone tells you they are interested in an area you do not know.


Welcome to Lake Anna - Photo by Kate ElimIf you or someone you know is thinking of buying or selling property at or near Lake Anna, Virginia please contact Kathleen "Kate" Elim, REALTOR®.

Kate lives at Lake Anna, knows Lake Anna, loves Lake Anna, and specializes in Lake Anna area real estate. 

Contact Kate at 540-226-1964 or Be sure to check Kate's Web site

Copyright © 2008 By Kathleen "Kate" Elim, All Rights Reserved. *Should REALTORS® Actually Know the Areas They Sell?*.



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Michele Keast Ott

Clients first.  If you cannot give them 100% you have no business working with them.  A referral fee is better than having your client say negative things about you because you did not know the area.  I am licensed in two states because of where I live.  I could be licensed in a third but have not done so because I know nothing of the area. 

Jan 07, 2009 01:20 AM #30
Sandy Shores FL Realtor®, Melbourne Real Estate
M & M Realty of Brevard Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Brevard County Real Estate, Florida's Space Coast

Hi Kathleen, Great post!  We have agents here that indicate that they represent our entire county.  Now how can that possibly be?  I saw an ad that indicated that an agent worked in 3 different counties - wow - now that's really ridiculous!

Jan 07, 2009 01:36 AM #31
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Keller Williams Realty - Ann Arbor, MI
Ann Arbor Area Real Estate

I think this all the time.  It is so true that you can't know the area and represent the client well in other counties unless they are very close.  We also have different well & septic rules and even Cert of Occupancy rules. So true.

Jan 07, 2009 01:50 AM #32
Mary Strang
Viroqua, WI

Being in a small rural market of about 28,000 across the county and only 4000 in Viroqua, I see a lot of agent who, have buyer will travel, from larger urban areas with a client buyer. We're 35 miles from a city of 150,000 and 90 miles from a city of maybe 500,000 or more.  Many agents from these urban cities will come out to sell in our area and not refer. It is a completely different market with rural property and farm issues that many do not know or understand. It is very different than residential issues.  Now we have also started also working their market instead of referring, since it is slower and have the time too. What I see is, often they are very surprised, like what are you (small town country agent who does not know the big city)  doing here.... but the street does go both ways.

Jan 07, 2009 01:53 AM #33
James Wexler - Scottsdale, AZ

real estate is real estate !! Right ?? Wrong, each market is too different for one agent to try to represent buyers and sellers across wide rangning geography

Jan 07, 2009 02:47 AM #34
David Henke
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc - Newtown Square, PA
Realtor, Homes Just West of Philadelphia PA

Great points and absolutely right.  I have referred clients out to areas that I could drive to in 15 minutes, but I knew there were nuances that I could not readily handle.  I always would want the expert in their area. 

Jan 07, 2009 03:27 AM #35
Sidney Kutchuk - Realty Works Temecula Kutchuk - Realty Works Temecula
Realty Works Temecula - Temecula, CA
Realty Works Temecula

I am with you on this one.  I refer clients who want to buy in San Diego County, just 30 minutes away because it is so different from Riverside County and I just have not taken the time to learn it so I don't want to misinform anyone.

Jan 07, 2009 04:23 AM #36
Loreena and Michael Yeo
3:16 team REALTY ~ Locally-owned Frisco TX Real Estate Co. - Frisco, TX
Real Estate Agents

Kate - I would hope that the answer to your question is a resounding YES... Yes. How else could we be efficient? And be the expert of our domain?

It's kinda like looking at your Eye Surgeon to see if you have issues with your nose? We wouldn't even think about that for one second.

Not Realtors(R) are made the same. Some work in all areas their cars can take them too, and there are some who just work in specific areas. I believe in knowing your market like the back of your hands.

Jan 07, 2009 04:32 AM #37
Cindy Jones
Integrity Real Estate Group - Woodbridge, VA
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News

Absolutely which is why I gave out your name this morning to an agent in our office looking for a Lake Anna agent!

Jan 07, 2009 04:39 AM #38
Andrea Merriott
PalmerHouse Properties - Smyrna, GA

I am so happy that you brought up this topic.  It has been one of my biggest pet peeves since joining the real estate industry. I am the queen of referrals. Metro Atlanta is comprised of 9+ counties and growing, there is absolutely NO WAY to be able to be knowledgeable about the entire area.  It IS best to specialize in one or two counties or maybe multiple cities.  Whenever I ask an agent, "where do you work?", I always get, "I'll sell a house ANYWHERE!"  I constantly ask them how they are able to give their clients the best service if they don't know an area.  I think that it is extremely unprofessional for real estate agents to take their clients around to areas they have never been.  I wish that some agents would raise the level of professionalism with which they operate.  It reflects badly on the industry as a whole.

Jan 07, 2009 05:01 AM #39
Kerry Jenkins
Prime Properties - Crestline, CA

Kathleen, I agree with you!  I wouldn't sell outside of my comfort area, but give a referral to a client for the area.  Or I would give a higher referral fee to another agent for showing us around while I went with my clients if I had a relationship with them already.  I wouldn't have done a CMA for another agent also, since those take up your time and you're not really getting anything for your help.  I live in a resort community, and we get tons of agents from the flatlands that think they can sell cabins up here.  They have no idea about our area, so how are they going to sell a cabin when they're used to selling tract homes?  180degree difference!

Jan 08, 2009 07:59 AM #40
Keller Williams Realty - Austin, TX
Over 2,000 homes sold…..

I would reduce that to 10 miles from my farm.  Anything beyond that, in my opinion, is a disservice to my clients.  Exceptions would be specific specialties such as lake front properties, senior projects, etc....

Jan 08, 2009 11:50 AM #41
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

There are parts of Maui I don't want to work in too, and only because I don't know the territory, so would rather refer it out.  Life is too short to try and do it all.

Jan 09, 2009 09:57 AM #42
Gabrielle Kamahele Rhind
KGC Properties LLC, Tucson Property Management & Real Estate - Tucson, AZ

MORNING KATE!  Can't agree more!  I refer out just 12 miles on the other side of town -- there are many communties on the "other side of Tucson" that I wouldn't even begin to try and help clients with.  Too many questions could come up that my answers would scream "she has no idea! -- Gabrielle

Jan 09, 2009 11:15 PM #43
Karen Kruschka
RE/MAX Executives - Woodbridge, VA
- "My Experience Isn't Expensive - It's PRICELESS"

Kate,  I can assure you I have no real estate knowledge of Lake Anna and if I had a referral for the area you would be my choice.  It is my firm belief we should only serve the areas we know best.  For example, we have lived in Lake Ridge for 26 years - I challenge anyone to know the Lake Ridge as well as my husband and I do,  Karen

Jan 11, 2009 11:32 AM #44
Kate Elim
Dockside Realty - Spotsylvania, VA
Realtor 540-226-1964, Selling Homes & Land a

Holly...I am sure you received the help you needed to find the right place.  Good decision.

AJ...That's right.  No one benefits when we aren't able to do a proper job.

Tammy...Glad to hear you live on a lake also.  You understand exactly what I mean.

Tony & Libby...Thanks.

Joan...Makes you wonder how those agents can expect free services like that from fellow agents.  I'm sure you disclose to your clients the areas you know the best and which ones you don't.

Trish...I've had concerns about appraisers also.  Not all of them understand waterfront/water access property and the values.

Pat...I'm glad to hear that you are feeling much more knowledgeable and comfortable with your new location.

Charles...Thanks, Friend.


Jan 11, 2009 12:18 PM #45
Kate Elim
Dockside Realty - Spotsylvania, VA
Realtor 540-226-1964, Selling Homes & Land a

Brenda...You're doing the smart thing.

Missy...It is a shame that it seems to be happening all over the place.

Martha...Smart choice.  It doesn't feel good when you are trying to be an expert in an area where you are not.

Carole...Hope that person took your advice.  They will be much better off with a local agent.

Cynthia...We all feel so much better when we really know what we are doing.

Cindy...Our reputation is the best thing we have going for us.  Knowing what we are doing makes a difference.

Regina...So that's what is happening in California.  You will probably find some agents drifting out of their area of expertise.

Steven...It is what we owe the buyers and ourselves.

Adam...Make the most of the area you know and understand and people will want to work with you.

Jason...You have the right idea.

Eunice...I will be sure to think of you in return.


Jan 11, 2009 01:03 PM #46
Kate Elim
Dockside Realty - Spotsylvania, VA
Realtor 540-226-1964, Selling Homes & Land a

Gayle...That may work for you and I sure do not know how many square miles there are in eastern Tennessee but few agents would believe they are experts in that much territory.  It must take a considerable amount of time to cover that area.

Dawn...I think it may be easier to list out of your area simply because you can do a CMA that gives you a feel for that neighborhood, etc.

Deb...Should I worry that I understood what you said???

Scott...Yes, we do want our listings to sell, however, I would rather the "distance" agents would refer their clients to agents that know more about the area.

Tim...In Atlanta 15 miles probably does cover a lot of territory.

Leesa...It is best to work where we are the local experts whether it is part of a county, the whole county or a couple of them.   We just need to be honest with ourselves and our clients.

Lenn...Thanks and I hope you catch some whoppers down here.  Enjoy!


Jan 11, 2009 01:27 PM #47
Kate Elim
Dockside Realty - Spotsylvania, VA
Realtor 540-226-1964, Selling Homes & Land a

Brian...I appreciate your vote of confidence.  Fortunately you seem to have plenty of business in Northern Virginia.

Caren...You are exactly right about the waterfront values.  I lived in Kent, OH for years.  Which lake are you referring to?

Kelly...That agent had no idea what they were asking for which convinced me they shouldn't even be thinking of doing any work in this area.

Michele...We have agents near state borders that work in more than one state.  As long as they learn what they need to know it can work.

Sandy...I would think that is especially difficult in a heavily populated area such as Brevard County.  Where I am, the counties are quite rural and not heavily populated.  The lake I live on is on the border of two counties.  The line runs down the middle of the lake.

Karen...You are so right.  There are nuances that some people would not understand.

Mary...Farm property is another specialty with its own complexities.  Not all of us know how to sell this type of property. 

James...That's right, all real estate is not alike. 

David...Smart move.  Hopefully they all refer back to you.

Jane...That's doing the right thing for you and your clients.

Loreena...When you are you doing a much better job.  How could you not feel better also.


Jan 11, 2009 01:51 PM #48
Kate Elim
Dockside Realty - Spotsylvania, VA
Realtor 540-226-1964, Selling Homes & Land a

Cindy...I really appreciate that.

Andrea...It does reflect badly on our profession when agents provide substandard service.

Amy...The main reason I did not do a CMA is because we sell waterfront land and homes, water access homes and land, water view homes and land, we're talking about a few CMAs not one.  It simply made me realize the agent had no idea what she was asking for and I wasn't about to do a huge tutorial when she really should be referring her client.  It didn't really matter to me if she referred to me or someone else.   Referral was what was called for in that case.

Tim...I'm sure the distances vary from location to location.  We only need to be mindful that we can not do it all.  We are very fortunate to have a referral mechanism.

Georgina...The important thing is to do what you do well.  Your reputation is what counts.  Hopefully you receive referrals from those in other parts of Maui.

Gabrielle...One thing we do not need is to be out of our element.  There's so much comfort when working in our area of expertise.

Karen...Anyone that has looked at your posts will understand that you know Lake Ridge.  No doubt about it.


Jan 11, 2009 02:06 PM #49
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